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Mitigating environmental risk at Koeberg

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Image Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Image credit: Eskom

06 December 2020 – Dekra Industrial RSA was recently awarded a tender to test and inspect Koeberg nuclear power station and mitigate the environmental risk at the plant.  

Dekra Industrial RSA was recently awarded a tender to undertake non-destructive testing (NDT) and inspection at South Africa’s only nuclear plant, Koeberg, in the Western Cape Province, with the aim to mitigate environmental risk at Koeberg. The company was sub-contracted by the two main suppliers on the project. Dekra’s sound reputation within the industry – as well as its established presence in Cape Town secured the NDT portion of the contract for the replacement of the steam generator (Steam Generator Replacement [SGR]).

“Safety is the cornerstone upon which our outstanding global and local reputation is built. Thanks to this – as well as our skilled local team – we were successful in our tender to supply the SGR project at Koeberg,” says Johan Gerber, Dekra’s director. Gerber adds that with a national and regional footprint and also its close proximity to the plant, Dekra is also geographically and logistically well-positioned to conduct nuclear NDT and inspection on the SGR project.

“We have furthermore been assessed in accordance with the stringent RD-0034 nuclear safety compliance standard – as part of the NDE (non-destructive evaluation) scope of work for the SGR project – and we are currently in the process of addressing the requirements and defined gaps to become completely RD-0034 Level 2-compliant. Although this is still subject to acceptance and verification from external parties, we are from Dekra management’s standpoint confident that we will meet the requirements as contracted and managed between Dekra and our clients via the relevant project plans,” says Gerber.

Once the above process has been completed, Dekra will be one of the few companies certified to this Level 2 supplier qualification in South Africa. Part of the project entails Dekra undertaking radiographic inspection on the reactor coolant system for the SGR project – specifically inspection of the connection weld between the steam generator and existing pipework; while the other part of the contract involved non-destructive examination services on the secondary welding on additional pipework, for the SGR project.

“Dekra’s inspections include visual examination, penetrant testing, magnetic particle testing,  ultrasonic testing and phased array ultrasonic testing; as well as industrial radiographic testing on the welds, which brings a set of challenges with it, as this obviously has a radiation component,” says Dekra Industrial Cape Town branch manager and project leader Rudolf Vermeulen.

“Introducing another source of radiation (even in such a small amount) into a nuclear plant entails even stricter adherence to already stringent safety protocols and involves substantial amounts of compliance-related administration. Both humans and equipment run the risk of potential radiation contamination in this scenario,” Vermeulen explains.

“While the Koeberg nuclear plant has many protocols in place to mitigate any form of contamination, there is always the potential human error element to consider. Dekra however, always ensures that the correct level of oversight is undertaken, with the most rigorous procedures in place, to prevent any potential errors on non-compliances from occurring,” he adds.

What also worked favourably for Dekra in securing this project was that the company is recognised as having good operational, safety compliance and behavioural measures in place and a solid safety culture and track record within the nuclear environment.

Dekra also has the approval of the Atomic Energy Association and – at short notice if necessary – the support of Dekra’s Services division in Europe. For the SGR project, Dekra was also tasked with providing NDT technicians and assistants to carry out and / or assist in NDT inspections as requested. The company therefore turned to the local community to fill these roles – particularly from Atlantis – as the area is conveniently close to the power plant. Permanent in-house Level 3s NDTs were drafted in to train these candidates accordingly.

Vermeulen points out that working in the nuclear sector was a new experience for many of the general workers (brush-hands) sourced locally; and adds that there was significant mentoring involved in the training process, which not only served Dekra Industrial, but facilitated skills empowerment and upliftment of the local community at the same time.

Gerber says that, in a nutshell, Dekra was awarded the SGR NDT contract according to a number of criteria, including the company’s technical experience and expertise, the upliftment of local people, the company’s reputation as a leader in the NDT, inspections, testing and safety sector, and its focus on delivering impeccable quality. Dekra has also just been ISO 45001-certified, the first and only international standard for occupational health and safety (OH&S) management.

“Our safety profile at Koeberg is now so highly regarded, that we are frequently called in to give safety presentations on behalf of the plant which – with future nuclear ‘new-build’ plants in the pipeline within the next five to ten years – will stand us in excellent stead in terms of building our profile and securing   top-of-mind awareness in this important industry sector for all nuclear NDT and inspection-related requirements going forward,” says Gerber.

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